Friday, December 15, 2017

BIS #5281 'I WAS NOT WORTHY TO BE A MARTYR'

by Karen Laurie 

 

MUMBAI, DEC 15, 2017: When Father Tom Uzhunnalil, a Salesian Priest, kept hostage for 557 days by terrorists in Yemen, was finally released from captivity on September 12, 2017, the world listened carefully for his testimony. Would it be one of resentment, bitterness, pain or torture? His abductors had after all gunned down 16 people, including four Missionaries of Charity nuns, in front of his eyes, before scurrying him away to an undisclosed location. Could anyone emerge from captivity unscathed?   

 

Father Uzhunnalil could and has!  

 

In Mumbai, in December, to receive the Mother Teresa Memorial Award, for his dedication and commitment to a place of great danger; 59-year-old Father Uzhunnalil is a far cry from the feeble, bitter hostage that many had imagined he would be after being held captive for over a year. While he is physically weaker, he is spiritually stronger.


"My blessed, loving Father would not give us anything bad, it may look as sufferings, but ultimately for me I see that I was not fortunate enough or worthy enough to be a martyr. I have no complaints. I never complained to the Lord. 'Why this sometimes,' yes, but I know, without his knowledge nothing bad would happen to me. While others fell to the bullets, why he has kept me unhurt? That was what strengthened me. It was not my personal strength and nothing to do with me," Father Uzhunnalil reflected.


"What kept me is this fact that the words of the Gospel, where, Jesus tells the people and his disciples, 'don't worry about clothing' and he sums up saying, 'even every hair on your head is counted and not one will fall to the ground without the knowledge of the Heavenly Father', so whenever that happens it's with the okay from the Heavenly Father."  


Father Uzhunnalil, ordained in 1990, was first dispatched to Yemen in 2010, where he was responsible for catering to the spiritual needs of sisters from the Missionaries of Charity. He returned to India in 2015, before the war escalated. While thousands of Indian citizens were asked to leave the middle-eastern country, Father Uzhunnalil felt an inner calling to volunteer to return, despite the dangers. 


His second stint began on July 1, 2017, after a UN Red Cross aircraft took him to Yemen. But the dangers of war were clearly apparent, even prompting the sisters to discuss the possibility of becoming targets of terrorists.


"Sister Superior had mentioned one night, may be two weeks before (the attack), 'Father how nice it would be if we all die together,' the youngest sister said, 'I don't want to die here,' and I said that, if it's the Lord's will, we cannot say no."


Sister Superior's words came true on March 4, 2016, as terrorists stormed the old-age home that catered to 70 inmates, firing and killing 16 people, including four sisters. Father Uzhunnalil, for some unknown reason to him, was left untouched.


"It was First Friday. We had holy Eucharistic adoration. Then the sisters went to be with the elderly people. I was still in the chapel praying. And while coming out of the sisters compound to the other general compound, I heard a gunshot and a little shuffling sound. I kept walking and there was a man with an automatic gun and bullets around his shoulders.  He held my hand and told me to sit on a chair that was near the security room. The gunshot I heard was them shooting the security man," Father Uzhunnalil, said.


"I sat there. There was a gardener who was running to switch off the water pump. They probably thought he was running away and he was shot from behind. He fell, bled profusely and in some time, he died. Another youngster, who was helping the sisters, was sleeping in a room, they brought him out and I could see the bullet hit him, he fell down and died. They brought the four sisters out, took two of them a little far away but within my vicinity. I heard two gunshots, they fell and then the other two sisters, were where I could see them, they shot them behind the head."


"I saw them fall. As I was watching all this, I just prayed to the Lord, have mercy on them, on the sisters as well as all those who were killing. I know it is not my strength. The Lord never gave me any fear or anxiety. I was not shivering. I was just watching and praying."


The terrorists then forced Father Uzhunnalil into the boot of a car, before they returned to wreak more havoc on the home. They eventually drove him some distance, before shifting him to another vehicle. He was blindfolded and taken to a house, where he was made to sit in a room. Then they questioned him, took away his mobile phone and gave him a different set of clothes to wear.


"First one or two days they tied my hands and feet and blindfolded me and I was not allowed to see them nor was I allowed to see the place and the location." Father Uzhunnalil was moved to multiple locations during his time in captivity. He lost count of the date and time, but he knew the Lord would not abandon him in his hour of need.      


"I used to keep recalling in my mind, that English hymn, 'One day at a time sweet Jesus'. I would wake up thank the Lord for the day, say the Angelus, say prayers for the dead, the Divine Mercy Rosary, Stations of the Cross and a Spiritual Mass. Since there was no bread and wine, no missal, I knew the prayers of the Mass, the prayers of the readings, I would meditate on it, bring to mind the Old Testament, New Testament, the Gospels and miracles."


"I would do the prayer of intercession for all and I would then complete the Holy Sacrifice spiritually and receive the spiritual Communion."


While Father Uzhunnalil prayed for the world outside, the world outside – and the faithful in India in particular - prayed for his release. Minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and over a year later, he was released!      


"I see in all these events the hand of God. He has a mission for each one of us. Perhaps, the mission entrusted for me was to go back (to Yemen) and to give strength to the sisters and since I was not killed, the Lord wanted me to pray for these people, for the groups (captors) that they may change their attitudes."


"I know my own people, the whole Salesian family, the Holy Father have prayed for me. Even Hindu and Muslim brothers and sisters, everyone prayed for me and it is their prayers that have kept me calm and kept me from sickness and pains. I could have been disturbed mentally and have gone off my head but none of those things has happened, no nightmares, nothing. It's the Lord's grace, due to the prayers of everyone," Father Uzhunnalil, said. 


"God turns things for the good of all and I see that the 18 months that I have gone through, my going back to Yemen and coming out, God has used this opportunity to strengthen the faith of people and as a proof that He exists, He is a living God and He answers prayers."

 

Father Uzhunnalil' is a testimony that serves to inspire generations about the love and mercy of God. His visit to Mumbai did just that, as he addressed hundreds of faithful at the Shrine of Don Bosco's Madonna on the December 8. He addressed Salesians in formation on December 9 and youth at SYMBIOS, a Salesian gathering for the young  on Dec 10.


"Those who were praying for him for so many months, when they see him in person, it strengthens their faith that our prayers have been answered," Father Savio Silveira, the Salesian Vice Provincial, said.


"Father Tom is very positive. Even when he talks about his captors he always says good things about them that they took care of me, they provided for my needs, they were kind to me. He says I was spending my time praying. It is a very inspirational moment for us as priests as well  because he calls you back to your spiritual roots."

Thursday, December 14, 2017

BIS #5280 MEGA YOUTH EVENT ON HEALTH, HARMONY AND HOLINESS

by Father McEnroe Lopes

 

MUMBAI, DEC 14, 2017: Salesian Youth movement (SYM) organised a mega-youth event entitled SYMBIOS, with the theme of Health, Harmony, Holiness at the Don Bosco School, Matunga on December 9 and 10.  

 

The first day of the event was reserved exclusively for juniors, whereas the senior youth participated on the final day. Both days began by invoking the blessings of the Divine after which the participants reflected on the theme with meaningful presentations through skits, dances and mimes. They enlightened everyone on the importance of good health, living in harmony and one's call to holiness by doing ordinary duties extraordinarily.

 

The participants then took part in workshops conducted on various themes. The Red Ribbon association focused on Health, the Blue Ribbon movement on Harmony and AVEC Mumbai on Holiness. The interactive workshops focused on developing healthy food habits, choices one needs to make to be an instrument of peace and harmony and uplifting one's life. 

 

Participants put their creativity to test by participating in theme- based activities like rangoli, clay modelling, best out of waste and painting. A lively beat of Zumba proved the energy and joy of being young. The event concluded with the presentation of the SYMBIOS souvenir to all participating Salesian communities.


A highlight of SYMBIOS was the presence and testimony of Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who celebrated the holy Eucharist for the senior youth on the second day. The youth were inspired as they listened attentively to Father Uzhunnalil's testimony about faith, bravery and perseverance. The youth also were given time to interact with the visiting priest. 

 

Father Uzhunnalil made headlines world-over after terrorists held him captive for over a year in Yemen after they stormed a Missionaries of Charity home in Aden and killed 16 people, including four Missionaries of Charity sisters. He was finally released from captivity on September 12 this year.

BIS #5279 FAITH FEST HELPS YOUTH STRENGTHEN FAITH

by Cleric Felix Almeida

 

NASHIK, DEC 14, 2017: Eighty youth from different regions of the Salesian and FMA Mumbai province gathered together at Maria Vihar, Nasik to celebrate 'Faith Fest', an event to help them strengthen their faith on December 9.

 

The faith celebration began with an inauguration ceremony at 5:30pm, with the girls from Maria Vihar boarding presenting a prayer dance to help the participants enter into a moment of prayer. Sister Salomi D'Souza, the FMA novice mistress declared the 'Faith Fest' open. The inaugural message dwelt on faith which is about being faithful, available, indebted, together and holy.

 

In his speech, Father Ashley Miranda, the Chief Guest, mentioned how faith is a significant element of life and that faith and action go hand in hand. In her welcome note, Sister Philomena D'Souza emphasised on how Nashik is a centre of faith for many people and therefore for us gathered here it is now an experience of strengthening our faith.

 

Sister Nilima Rodrigues, the chief coordinator, then introduced the organisers. An ice-breaker session was held to help the youth make new friends. The participants were divided into eight different groups. Activities were conducted to help them reflect on the aspects of faith in their lives and what God means to them. To further inspire the youth, biblical games were organised. Seeking the guidance of our Blessed Mother, the youth then prayed the candle light holy Rosary and contemplated on the Joyful Mysteries.

 

At supper the youth had time for recreation and to mingle with others. The day ended with praise and worship adoration service in which the youngsters offered their weaknesses and failures before the Lord. Sticking to the Salesian tradition, Father Jacob Palaparambil shared a goodnight message asking youngsters to be bearers of Christ in their respective setups.

 

The next day began with an animated morning prayer after which the youngsters had meditation in their respective groups. During the meditation, the youngsters reflected on the Gospel passage of Jesus being lost in the temple. The later session was intense in nature with youngsters being given personal time to reflect on life and relationships especially in the family. This meaningful journey continued with the sacrament of reconciliation wherein the youngsters spend quality time with themselves in silence. The holy Eucharist was then celebrated by Father Kenneth Pereira who helped the participants to understand the different parts of the Eucharist and its significance.

 

Post lunch a session was organised by the brothers with the theme 'You too can be a Saint'. The session focused on how holiness is a matter of opening ones heart to God. After the session, participants spent some time sharing their experiences. The last input session was given by Father Robert Pen who spoke on motivating oneself which is a crucial element in the life of every youngster. The 'Faith Fest' celebration ended with a closing ceremony and prize distribution. The youngsters were grateful for the experience and expressed their sentiments personally to those who contributed to the process of growth in their lives.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

BIS #5278 DON BOSCO'S MICKEY MAGONE NOW AVAILABLE IN GUJARATI

by BIS Correspondent

 

DAKOR, DEC 13, 2017: The life-story of Don Bosco's pupil Mickey Magone who reformed himself from a street hooligan to an aspiring saint in the 18th century is now available in Gujarati. The fruit of a long-drawn laborious effort by Father Dinesh Vasava, Mickey Magone is a short, crisp booklet featuring incidents from the young lad's life prior to and after meeting with Don Bosco in the alleyways of Turin during the aftermath of the industrial revolution.

 

Mickey Magone, the Gujarati version was launched with much fanfare as part of the concluding moments of SYMBIOS GuRaM at the Don Bosco Dakor campus on December 10. Father Godfrey D'Souza, Salesian Provincial Mumbai; Pioneering Salesian Missionary in Dakor, Father Ivan deSouza; Father Ignas Macwan, Father Charles Anthony, Father Edwin, Sister Sunanda FMA, Sister Melna SMI; and Jasvantbhai  Macwan, Editor of the Gujarati Catholic Monthly Dhoot participated in the book launch ceremony.

 

Compeering the event, Father Pravin Macwana, Rector at Don Bosco Narukot described the book launch as a relevant meaning-making occasion within the context of the mega-youth fest, with 450 youth from across the institutions managed by the Salesian Family in the GuRaM region of NorthWest-Central India. "Every sinner has a past; every sinner has a future, and this book reveals how this is possible through Don Bosco's Educational System," remarked Father Macwana. Jasvantbhai Macwan, who painstakingly copy-edited the tome, said, "The life of Mickey Magone as this book describes, and the tremendous transformation in his personal life after meeting with Don Bosco is so inspirational, I wonder why he has not been declared a saint by the Church! The boy who was considered a gang-leader and a ruffian, reinvents himself as a do-gooder through a virtuous renewal of his life and this book will definitely prove relevant to everyone who reads it."

 

In the Q & A session that followed the launch, the author of Mickey Magone, Father Dinesh Vasava interacted with the 450 plus audience, sharing his personal life-experiences and youth-encounters as a Salesian of Don Bosco. Replying to a question on his own personal 'Mickey'-like encounters, he said, "Yes, of course, during my tenure here in Dakor, as a young Salesian, I have indeed encountered so many boys who were alike Mickey Magone, and moreover in my stint at Don Bosco Snehalaya at Vadodara in the interactions with these boys whom society rejects and neglects, I really discovered the greatness of Don Bosco's youth work."

 

When asked about his inspiration, Father Vasava reminisced about his childhood and latter years, responding, "Looking at my own childhood and experiences in the boarding and later when I decided to join the Salesians of Don Bosco, I can say that yes, Mickey Magone is an inspiration for change. I was inspired to write this book for the young and for Salesians in local Gujarati, since this can possibly affect the lives of so many youth and enable them to connect with each other, while responsibly committing themselves to societal transformation."

 

The young participants at SYMBIOS GuRaM were ebullient in their applause for the effort of the author, even as Father Macwana brought the occasion to a close reminding the participants that this is the moment for life-transformation and Mickey Magone can be their inspiration.

BIS #5277 USHERING IN CHRISTMAS

by Cleric Mukesh Garasiya

 

MUMBAI, DEC 13, 2017: Twenty girls and boys from Don Bosco Parish, Borivli, preparing to receive their First Holy Communion, visited Bosco Boys Home, a non formal technical school catering to the needs of school dropouts, economically marginalised and orphans with little opportunities in making a living, on December 10.

   

Teachers, Veena Prabhu and Sabina D'Silva, accompanied the youth on the visit. The group from the parish arrived at 11.30am. Father Lloyd Rodrigues, the vice rector welcomed them. Thereafter, Prabhu began the programme by asking a few children to come forward and to sing Christmas carols. She then played a video on the theme of love and hope.

 

All children were then divided into four groups namely; Love, Peace, Joy and Hope. The purpose of the visit was to encourage interaction among the children. Youth were asked the names of friends that they had made. Prizes were given to those who answered correctly. The parish group also brought some stationery for the boys. Towards the end, another video was shown on the story of Christmas. Prabhu reiterated the message presented in the video saying, "Great things have humble beginnings."  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

BIS #5276 NEARLY 400 STUDENTS OBTAIN SKILL CERTIFICATE

BFather Rolvin D'Mello

 

MUMBAI, DEC 12, 2017: The Don Bosco Development Society (DBDS), Mumbai organised the graduation day ceremony of the vocational skill classes in which nearly 400 students obtained their certificates. Father Savio Silveira, Vice Provincial of province of Mumbai, was the chief guest and he presented the certificates to the students. 

 

The programme began with a short prayer service at the Bianchi hall in the Don Bosco International School building. Surekha Pednekar, coordinator –DBDS, welcomed the gathering. She shared information on various vocational courses like spoken english, basic computer, tally, beauty culture (hair and skin), mehendi and tailoring, which were conducted from June - November 2017.

 

In his address, Father Silveira expressed his joy on seeing so many students empowered through these skills. He also congratulated the DBDS team for their good work. The programme ended with a short entertainment and cultural show put up by the students. It also included a display of the skills learnt during the training period. 

 

"I am grateful to Don Bosco for teaching me computers and especially the accounting package of tally – absolutely free of cost. This will definitely help me in building my bright future," Komal Manjule, student of the computer course, said.

Monday, December 11, 2017

BIS #5275 FATHER TOM UZHUNNALIL RECEIVES THE MOTHER TERESA MEMORIAL AWARD

by Father Joaquim Fernandes 

 

MUMBAI, DEC 11, 2017: Father Tom Uzhunnalil, a Salesian from the Province of Bangalore abducted in Aden in March 2016 and released in September 2017 has been awarded the Mother Teresa Memorial Award 2017 for Social Justice by the Harmony Foundation on the December 10, in Mumbai.

 

This year's theme is ''Compassion across borders - a compassionate response to the refugee crisis.'' Father  Uzhunnalil has shown dedication and commitment to a place of great danger. Abraham Mathai, president of the Harmony Foundation, a Mumbai based organisation that commemorates the Saint of Calcutta with the award since 2007,  felicitated Father Uzhunnalil and presented him with a citation and the memento for his bravery and resilience in the face of adversity. 

 

Father Uzhunnalil worked in Yemen together with the Missionaries of Charity - the Congregation founded by Mother Teresa - and was abducted on March 4, 2016, while inside one of their centers, where four religious sisters died in the attack. His fellow priest Father M K George who worked with him in Yemen was present during the award ceremony. 

 

He was chosen ''for the inspiring example of compassionate humanity, and for having continued to work for the elders of the Missionaries of Charity in Yemen, despite having had the opportunity to leave the country. "We praise Father Tom's dedication and commitment for work in a location of great danger, where his colleagues were murdered in cold blood,'' said the foundation in a written statement. 

 

The Harmony Foundation, founded in 2005 to promote and spread ideas of peace, dialogue and community support without distinction of religion, caste, gender or ethnicity, has in the past awarded the prize to individuals and organisations committed to human rights, such as the Dalai Lama, Doctors Without Borders, and the very young Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. This year the awards were given to Shigeru Ban, UNHCR, IsroAID, Bayat Foundation, Caritas International, Mercy Corps and Hellenic Resource Team along with a few more eminent personalities. 

 

Meanwhile, Father Uzhunnalil is still engaged in official activities in India, and in Kerala, his state of origin. In each of his scheduled events so far, the Salesian continues to surprise all for his clear and peaceful Christian testimony, and for his declared willingness to carry out God's plan for his life in the future.  He thanked the Harmony Foundation for having felicitated him. ''Thanks for all your constant prayers. There is goodness in everyone, it is only through love and forgiveness we witness peace and we need to forgive our enemies. I believe in a Living God who has called me to be a witness to Him.'' Father Uzhunnalil, said. 

 

''I met Mother Teresa in the year 1983 and I am inspired by her love for God, her humility and simplicity and very friendly approach to people. Not all of us can do great things but we can do great things with love,'' Father Uzhunnalil said, as he quoted Mother Theresa.

BIS #5274 SUSTAINABLE FUTURE FOR DON BOSCO YERWADA

by Mehtab Shinde

 

PUNE, DEC 11, 2017: Don Bosco Junior College, Yerwada switched to clean energy generation using solar electrification and a 31 Kilowatt solar plant, to power fans, air conditioners, lights, water pumps and computers at the institution on December 5.

 

The solar plant designed, delivered and installed by ONP Solar, is based on GridTie technology, which doesn't use batteries. The plant has a capacity to light up 31 homes with one KW. The plant consists of 96 unit high standard Tier-1 international brand solar photovoltaic panels coupled with a 25KW GridTie Solar inverter.


Father Francis Fernandes, the administrator, said, "We used the best of technology from ONP Solar. Our aim was to use the best quality products, for a simple reason that we need to secure value for money in a short-term by reducing our electricity bills and also contributing positively towards the environment in the long-term."

 

In a city like Pune, where power tariffs are high, a project of this nature would be very cost effective. It would also reduce carbon footprints. "The city's power situation can be transformed if we begin using electricity generated through solar plants. Most important here at Don Bosco, we will be saving 40 tonnes of carbon emission, year on year," Father Michael Bansode, the Rector, said.


Father Bosco D'Mello, the Principal, added, "The students of our institution will get to see a live solar plant on any given day and learn the benefits of going green and clean. The whole idea of installing solar cells was to teach the concept of sustainable development to our students, which would in turn reduce the forms of pollution in the environment. Children have tender minds, if we teach them good, they will do good to society and it all starts from the place they receive their education."

 

The college has also applied for net-metering facility, this will help to export excess power generated during weekends and holidays, to a MSEB Grid. Through this process our clean energy generation will add great value and avoid wastage of clean energy.

 

The initiative is aimed at making the institute adopt environment-friendly systems and to reduce the use of power from the grid. Electricity generation is the institutions way of reducing global warming and achieving a 'zero energy' status in the next couple of months.

BIS #5273 IN HIS TIME

by Neil Fernandes

 

NASHIK, DEC 11, 2017: "In His time, He makes all things beautiful, in His time," was the main message of Father Tom Uzhunnalil when he visited Divyadaan, Nashik, on December 9. 

 

Father Uzhunnalil arrived at Divyadaan at 1:15pm, along with Father M K George from the Bangalore province of the Salesians of Don Bosco and Father Savio Silveira, vice provincial of the province of Mumbai, after a meeting with Bishop Lourdes Daniel of the Nasik diocese. 

 

At 2 pm, the Divyadaan brothers along with the Capuchins, the Salesian novices, Salesian sisters (FMA), FMA novices, priests from the neighbouring communities, parishioners, ADMA and a few other religious assembled for a felicitation programme and an interactive session with Father Uzhunnalil. 

 

The FYBPh brothers set the tone of the programme with a chorale, 'Christ Be Our Light.' Thereafter Father Robert Pen of the community, formally welcomed the guests. In his introductory talk, Father Pen compared Father Uzhunnalil to a martyr and called him "a martyr who has roared back to life." Father Pen, then, went on to felicitate the guests.

 

Father Uzhunnalil addressed the gathering, beginning with his testimony. Father thanked all those who prayed for his release, especially the people of other faiths. He then narrated the history of the mission at Yemen, and how the sisters survived solely on Divine Providence. He also recalled the events of the fateful day March 4, 2016; when after Eucharistic Adoration he heard gunshots, was taken prisoner and witnessed the death of the Missionary of Charity sisters. 

 

Father Uzhunnalil mentioned being transported to a safe house in the trunk of a car. He joked that it was quite comfortable. He further explained the daily routine of his life for the next 18 months in captivity, which included prayer, food and a lot of sleep. There were also times when he was made to act in videos that were doctored by the terrorists. "Nothing will happen without the knowledge of your Heavenly Father," these words from the Gospel gave him strength and he was never afraid of being killed. 

 

Father Uzhunnalil said his captors never ill-treated him, but took care of all his needs. He then spoke of how, on September 10, he received the news of his release and finally on September 12, he was transported to Oman and then to Rome. He ended by saying that God has a plan for us, which will be revealed in His time. His final message was, "Share the love of God in whichever way he calls you."

 

After this, Father George shared his experience in Yemen, where he was a parish priest. The Al-Qaeda had attacked his Church and killed the care-taker. They contacted Father George during the execution of the care-taker, Ali. Father George was terrified and knew that they would come for him. He was in shock, shivering and unable to speak, until he prayed to God, "Let Your will be done" and all the shivering ceased. He escaped from the parish but was always in fear until he reached the capital of Yemen. A few days later, he received news that his parish was taken over by the terrorists, but luckily the sisters working there were transported elsewhere. He, too, emphasised on surrendering oneself to God's will.

 

Thereafter, there was an interactive session, wherein the audience put forth a few questions to Father Uzhunnalil on the nature of his state while in captivity. Father Uzhunnalil responded with serenity to all the questions. When asked what God's plan was for him now, he simply replied, "To testify that our God is a living God." He also said the only thing that one can do, to help all those taken captive by terrorists, is pray. It helped him and he believes that it will help others, too. 

 

The two great missionaries testified about their faith in God's Providence and kindled a missionary fire in everyone's hearts especially all the youngsters in formation.

BIS#5272 SALESIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT IN NORTH-WEST INDIA CONNECTS, CELEBRATES, COMMITS

by BIS Correspondent

 

DAKOR, DEC 11, 2017: The Salesian Youth Movement [SYM] SYMBIOS GuRaM 2017 was officially inaugurated by Father Godfrey D'Souza – Salesian Provincial Mumbai on December 09, 2017 at Dakor Don Bosco. Amidst a vast gathering comprising of 445 youth participants, volunteers, Salesians, SMI and FMA nuns, Father D'Souza declared the gathering open by launching the SYMBIOS Logo-Rosary Balloon that took flight on a pleasantly sunny weekend morning. 

 

SYMBIOS signifies Salesian Youth Movement and Life [Bios], through which the Salesians of Don Bosco promote an integral Salesian Youth Spirituality among the young. This en masse gathering in its formulaic etymology means a 'Home of Life and Love', proposing to the young to live meaningful lives, through Connect [Home], Commit [Love], and Celebrate [Life]. The young from 15 institutions in the Gujarat-Rajasthan-Madhya Pradesh region were animated on the four themes of Family-Relationships, Environment, Education-Culture and Social Action. 


During the two-day event, among the varied activities, are included creative expressions like collage-making, rangoli, best out of waste, folk dances, cultural ensembles, interfaith prayer moment, alongwith serious issue-based inputs by animators/facilitators. Father D'Souza in his inimitable style during the opening speech invited the youngsters to "become responsible stakeholders and co-creators in the creation of a humane society as connected, committed and celebrating global citizens." 

Shailesh Christie, reputed motivational speaker cum mentor-trainer invited the young to go beyond the superficial connectivity of the social media that has hooked all of us, to "take on self-responsibility through concrete commitments /resolutions, enhancing the quality of life in family and societal life, contributing to positive, insightful thinking envisioning a loving and caring world." 

 

Swaying to the electrifying beats of local folk music, the young people added zing to the day's proceeding with a cultural garba, adding zestful spark and glitter dispelling the darkness of the dry wintry night, warming up to one another and ushering in a new era of dynamic synergy. 

The SYMBIOS GuRaM is the first such instance of a vast gathering of young people from across the institutions animated by the Salesian Family in the north-western part of India. A moment of camaraderie that enlivens, informs, educates, connects and celebrates the young, this mega youth event is an occasion to commit to a better me and a better we.

Friday, December 8, 2017

BIS #5271 SALESIAN PROVINCIAL COMMUNITY DAY CELEBRATED IN MUMBAI


by Father Joaquim Fernandes

 

MUMBAI, DEC 8, 2017: Nearly 100 Salesians, alongside provincial councillors and animators of communities, participated in the Provincial Community Day of the Salesian Province of Mumbai at the Don Bosco Provincial House on December 4. 

 

Provincial Father Godfrey D'Souza, flanked by Vice Provincial Father Savio Silveira, Provincial Economer Father Manuel Murzello and the provincial councillors presided over the solemn Eucharist at 6.30 pm at the Crypt of the Shrine of Don Bosco's Madonna. 

 

Provincial Father D'Souza gave a brief introduction during the Eucharistic celebration. "It is up to us Salesians to work with one another, with our limitations and our expectations, in creating unity, in understanding what we share in common, in upholding the Gospel values and defining the boundaries to share in the mission of what God calls us to be," Father D'Souza, said.

 

Father Kenneth Pereira, Councillor for Formation, reflected on community life in his homily. "We belong to the local, provincial and world community of the Salesians and these have its own challenges and opportunities. We need to be praying and committed Salesians. Our coming together is because God has called each one of us and hence in a world which is wounded, divided and scattered, we need to give hope and live the life of Christ," Father Pereira, said.

 

Unseasonal rainfall, due to the Cyclone Ockhi, prompted a change in the venue for the community meal that was arranged. The weather didn't dampen the spirits of all gathered. Father Crispino D'Souza, Rector of Don Bosco High School, Matunga - the host community instrumental in organising the Province Community Day celebrations - thanked the Provincial and the councillors for their leadership in guiding the Salesian Province of Mumbai. The Provincial then thanked the Salesians for their collaboration in working together, to expand the mission of Don Bosco amongst youngsters.   

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

BIS #5270 YOUNGSTERS PLEDGE TO SERVE AT THE ALTAR

by Ruth Clara Veigas and Christopher Rosario

 

KUWAIT, DEC 6, 2017: Fifty boys from St Therese of Child Jesus Church in Kuwait took their pledge as altar servers, while one hundred and twenty-three existing altar servers renewed their promise to serve the Lord at his altar on December 4.

 

Each year after receiving the First Holy Communion, the parish announces registration for new altar servers. This year a total number of 58 boys registered to join the altar servers' ministry. All the boys were trained for eleven consecutive Saturdays by Pascal Fernandes, James Sequeira (Latin rite) and Joshi George, Sandhya James, Tom Jose and Marykutty Stalin (Syro-Malabar rite) with the support of a few senior altar servers.

 

The boys were taught to serve during holy Mass and were also familiarised with the sacred books, vestments and the vessels used. Ninety per cent attendance and a written examination were mandatory for the training, after which the boys were qualified for induction. All the boys performed exceptionally well at the written test, with Joshua D'Souza scoring full 50 marks. Based on the attendance and marks, 50 boys from the Latin and Syro-Malabar rites, were selected to join the altar servers' ministry.

 

The Holy Eucharist was celebrated by Father Lionel Braganza and attended by the parents and parishioners of St. Therese of Child Jesus Church. At the introduction, Father Braganza expressed his joy to see the large number of altar servers dressed in their robes present for the induction ceremony.

During the homily, Father Braganza thanked the parents for choosing to send their sons for serving at the altar. He also shared his experience as an altar server and his mother's desire to have all her sons become priests. Father Braganza advised the boys that should they have a desire to join the priestly vocation, not to delay; rather take a quick decision and contact a priest for further guidance.

 

After the homily, 50 new boys took their pledge while the 123 existing altar servers renewed their promise. Before the final blessing, certificates to the new boys and trophies and certificates to the six best altar servers for the year 2016-2017 were distributed. As a gesture of appreciation, 'Helping Hand Certificates' and gifts were also distributed to the senior boys for helping the ministry on various occasions during the year 2016 – 2017. 


After Holy Mass, it was time to celebrate! All the boys assembled in the church courtyard and were felicitated by the cutting of cake.  All parents and parishioners once again joined to witness the occasion and congratulate the boys. Altar Server Dave Jesus Rodrigues, who was newly inducted said, "I am glad to be an altar server because by serving the priest at the altar, I will stay close to Jesus. I will not forget my pledge and commitment as an altar server." 

 

All the boys and their parents appreciated the efforts of the ministry in organising and making the children feel special. "I have my two sons inducted today and will serve as altar servers. I am very happy with the training sessions conducted by the coordinators. It was a very well planned and organised event," Jayan C Andrews, a parent of a newly inducted altar server, said.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

BIS #5269 MAKING CATECHISM FUN AND EFFECTIVE

by BIS Correspondent

 

KUWAIT, DEC 5, 2017: Over a hundred catechists from the parishes of St. Therese of the Child Jesus Church in Salmiya and St. Daniel Comboni, Abassiya attended the General Catechists Course held on November 25, December 1 and 2 in Kuwait. 

 

Father Franco Pereira, Catechetical Director for the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia, invited Dr Father Gilbert Choondal to conduct the course. Father Choondal holds a PhD in Catechetics and Youth Ministry from the Salesian Pontifical University, Rome. He is a professor at Kristu Jyoti College, Bangalore, India and is presently the President of the Indian Catechetical Association.

 

During the orientation session on the first day of the course, Father Choondal spoke about the vocation of a catechist. He said that mere knowledge of the faith is not enough, adding that the catechetics must believe what they teach and teach what they believe.

 

He said that classes conducted just verbally without the use of any visual aids could be boring and ineffective in the long run, adding, children learn better when they do and learn. Father encouraged those present to use lively creative methods, media, projects, visuals, songs, art, magic, games and riddles.

 

Gracy Rodrigues, a catechist, speaking on her impressions said, "Father Gilbert brought home to me the fact that catechesis is a mission and I as a catechist, am especially chosen by God to facilitate the knowledge of faith to His children."

 

On the second day, Father Choondal spoke about sacred icons, their origin, their meaning and how to use them in catechesis. He touched upon the methods of communicating the faith in catechesis. He emphasised the use of media, the role of audio and visual aids, group activities, creative writing, drawing, memorisation, liturgical activities, missionary activities and many more.

 

"All the sessions were very educative, magical and fun. The most impressive part was using a simple tool like craft to catechise the children. Being a teacher of class two, I'm sure the little kids in my class will love these show and learn ideas and will help them take the right message home," Janice D'Souza, another catechist, said.

 

Using Pope Francis' Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, for the concluding session on the family, Father Choondal shared 10 ways in which catechists can become pastoral animators in family ministries. He encouraged them to faithfully practice the 10 tips for catholic families drawn from Amoris Laetitia, so that families can be strengthened and grow in love for God and each other.

 

Father Choondal ended by saying that the most important dimension in catechesis is not the method but the catechist!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

BIS #5268 DON BOSCO INDIA FORGES GREEN ALLIANCE

by Father Noel Maddhichetty  

DIMAPUR, DEC 2, 2017: Salesian delegates meeting for the 2017 Annual Provincial Development Official (PDO) Meet in AIDA, Dimapur on November 30 and  December 1 agreed to push for four flagship programmes at the national level that focus on climate change, child rights, aiding stakeholders to make sustainable livelihoods and women empowerment programmes.

The flagship projects would be designed into standard patterns of interventions by the PDO network to replicate them among the pan India Don Bosco partners in the future. The delegates reached a consensus to focus on the Don Bosco Green Alliance, a campaign to combat climate change.

Child Rights Promotion and Protection was also highlighted as a pressing issue that needed intervention. Agricultural Skill Training for sustainable livelihood, including Organic farming, was the third programme that was stressed upon and finally women empowerment programmes were also singled out as essential. 

The delegates were warmly welcomed on November 30 with a traditional Naga dance performed by the students in the AIDA centre. Father Nestor Guria, Provincial of Dimapur gave a keynote address, quoting the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus himself was concerned about the poor and needy. Don Bosco followed His spirit in shaping and moulding children and youth as good human beings and responsible citizens. 

Father Maria Arokiam Kanaga, Regional Councillor for South Asia, sent a message to urge the directors of the PDO, to bring about a paradigm shift in their educational institutions. He asserted the need to take up eco-based education and create love in our students for nature.

"In the secular world, development in general refers to industrial development and building up of real estate, in the bargain, aggravating the divide between the rich and the poor and ruining the natural ambient around them," Father Kanaga, said.

"For us, called to be prophets, mystics and servants, it should have quite a different meaning. It has to be in keeping with the Gospel vision of society and along the lines of Laudato Sì, caring for our common home of Pope Francis. Development has to respect God, man and nature."

"Even our well run educational institutions, unwittingly have been producing largely good servants of this capitalistic, market oriented, money centred system. We have not taught them to go back to nature, to the Garden of Eden, which is actually the paradise for which God created us, where there is harmony between God, man and nature.  So, we need to make a paradigm shift now. In all our educational institutions, we need to take up eco-based education, and create love in our students for nature."

Father Noel Maddichetty, Director of BoscoNet, exhorted the participants to synergies the forces in the network to campaign and intervene as one force of Don Bosco India, with strategies, which will stimulate the social transformation of youth and marginalised people.

Babloo, founder of Human Rights Alert, Manipur took the first session on the ground situation in the North East regarding human rights and related issues pertaining to the shrinking of democratic space in our times.

Father Savio Silveira, Vice Provincial of the Salesian province of Mumbai and pioneer of Greenline Movement, presented care and concerns regarding environmental issues and how to preserve and protect the environment. His presentation prompted a discussion which converged into a consensus to forge the Don Bosco Green Alliance and educate young people to combat climate change and create a safer climate for them in the future. 

Thomas Fernandez, Deputy Manager for Sriram Finance shared with the audience about various Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) opportunities. PDO Directors presented the special projects and shared their best practices in the provinces. 

Father Xavier Packiam, the coordinator of the provincial economers' network presented some of the administrative and accounting procedures to update the administration standards of the provincial development offices.

Friday, December 1, 2017

BIS #5267 BRINGING IN THE CHRISTMAS CHEER

by Ramona Crasto

 

KUWAIT, DEC 1, 2017: As part of the Christmas festivities, the Salmiya Parish Youth (SPY) from St. Therese Parish in Salmiya, Kuwait organised their annual picnic for Domestic Helpers' on November 24.

 

Nineteen youth members and volunteers arranged a fun-filled day for around 110 maids and drivers at a chalet in Kabd. After welcoming the guests, the day began with holy Mass celebrated by Father Lionel Braganza, spiritual director of SPY. This was followed by a day filled with games, food, music and gift bags for the domestic helpers. Father Blany Pinto, parish priest of St. Therese graced the occasion with his presence and joined in the fun and celebrations.

 

Domestic helper's day is SPY's way of giving back to the community at large. It is an opportunity to recognise and appreciate the domestic helpers who work tirelessly long working hours and often thanklessly for meagre salaries," Donovan Ferrao, member of the SPY core, said.

 

"Christmas is the season of giving and it is our great pleasure to be able to make this day special for these hard working people who are far away from their families for Christmas. The smile on their faces at the end of day fills us with the spirit of Christmas and also teaches us that even the smallest show of love can make a big difference in someone's life."

 

Elvira D'Souza, who has been working for 15 years in Kuwait as a maid, said, "SPY has been organising this annual event for many years now and we all look forward to attend it just like any other celebration. It was amazing to see so many youngsters cater to our needs for a change and I would like to thank SPY for organising this day of joy and fun for us in a very systematic way. God bless the youth and organisers who made this day feel like a break from our daily routine."

Thursday, November 30, 2017

BIS #5266 PUSHING THE LIMITS OF SPORTING EXCELLENCE

by Ashish Rajkumar Sanglikar and Swati Patil 

PUNE, NOV 30, 2017: Don Bosco High School and Junior College, Pune witnessed adrenalin pumping sporting action as the institution celebrated its 40th annual Sports Festival, on November 25 at the school grounds.

Students participated in a wide array of disciplines, which included events like long jump, shot put, discus throw, athletics, relay race and tug of war. Each house in-charge ensured that a majority of students participated in the competition. 

Apart from track and field, students from standard five to eight displayed their karate skills which helps in shaping body, mind and soul. The students were coached by Sunil Vanve and Jyoti Kshirsagar. Students from standard 11 displayed various shapes and symbols of sportsmanship through pyramids. Their teachers, Sabina, Blossom, Amit, Johan Anthony and Prathamesh Botre coached them for the same.
 
Students from the primary and secondary section then performed a zumba dance, while students from standard nine and ten displayed the traditional lezim. Finally, standard 12 students did an aerobics display.

Guru Gharath, a gold medallist in triathlon in national and South Asian Games in 2015, 2016, Asian Championship and also a triathlon gold in 2017, was the Chief Guest, while Dreeraj Sawant, a gold medalist in triathlon in South Asian Games in 2016, a silver medalist in triathlon in senior national games in 2016 and a bronze medallist in trithlon in national games in 2015, alongside Manish Anand, the Vice President of Maharashtra Hockey Federation were the Guests of Honour.

The competition began with a guard of honour, which was followed by the march past. The school band then played the National Anthem. Gharath hoisted the sports flag. Lavina Lobo and Hrushi Pacharne from the secondary section, Kayadu Lohar and Johan Anthony from the  junior college, Ashish Patare, a teacher representative  and Cyril Ashirwadam, PTA representative carried and ignited the sports flame as a symbol of sportsmanship.


Alisha Khemali, the college captain, administered the sports person's oath. Catherine Moses, college sports secretary led the sports person's prayer. Father Bosco D'Mello, the Principal, then introduced the Chief Guest and the other dignitaries. Sawant addressed the gathering and urged parents to give their children more opportunities in sports and to be open to sports activities.  He also said that sports makes an individual more disciplined and talented which is not possible through academic's alone.

The red house from the secondary section and the blue house from the junior college were declared as the champions of the year. "As a house in- charge it's indeed a proud moment for me to be declared as winners but the credit goes to all the students who have won the medals and made the house proud," Vanita Roham, a teacher from junior college, said.
 
Jyoti Kshirsagar, another teacher, added, "We, the teachers have been preparing the students in the months that have gone by and today it seems that our hard work has really paid."

Dikshyant Bandari, a young athlete from standard 12, said, "I was preparing very hard for this event and I feel proud that I have bagged 3 gold and 1 silver, it's the biggest day in my life till date."

The primary section held their sports meet on November 24, with Devendra Singh, a gold medalist at Asian Yoga Championship 2015, a silver medalist in national yoga championship 2016, in attendance as the Chief Guest.  

The primary students performed mass drills by using various sports equipment as their props. Tiny tots from standard one and two performed aerobics, whereas standard three and four performed lezim to the famous Nashik dhol music.  
 
The students then competed in a host of events, such as the flat race, potato race, book balancing, sack race, garlanding the partner and relay. Parents too won prizes by participating in events like musical chairs and tug of war.

"I am very delighted to see my son securing a gold medal in the relay race. This has surely boosted up his confidence and will encourage him to participate in more events in the coming year," Pillay, a parent, said.

Mohit Thakur, a student, added, " My parents will be very happy to know that I have won 2 gold medals and 1 bronze medal in the 50 metre race , 100 metre flat race and relay race respectively. They will surely be proud of me."